3 December 2004

New european safety law is promising to make car recalls more common for motor manufacturers, more of a problem for dealers and a more prominent pain for owners when it comes into force next May.

Car makers currently bear the majority of responsibility for ensuring the safety of their vehicles, but once the EU’s General Product Safety Directive comes into force in the UK dealers will also become culpable. The Department for Transport will gain extra powers to impose product recalls wherever it deems them necessary, too.

Mazda has issued 11 separate recall and rework notices on its cars since January 2004, according to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency’s database (www.vosa.gov.uk).An unnamed Mazda dealer confirmed that most recalls ‘were identified directly by the manufacturer’ and that he didn’t expect that to change. ‘We’ve been advised to double-check that recall work has been carried out when we take a car as a trade-in,’ he said, ‘but to expect the number of recalls to go up would suggest that there was a surplus of potential safety problems and Mazda’s track record for reliability would suggest that’s not the case.’

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A spokesman for Peugeot, which has recalled more than 10 batches of vehicles so far this year, indicated that he wasn’t expecting recalls to increase in number. ‘We tend to recall cars in small numbers and our dealers have been a crucial part of that system for a while,’ he pointed out. ‘The new law should tighten everything up, making it easier to track new owners down and boosting recall completion rates.’

What will change, however, is how highly recalls feature on the various agendas of car manufacturers and traders now faced with the threat of more direct action from the government. This means an increased likelihood that your new car will be recalled – by its maker, its seller, or even the government – and that getting that work carried out will become even more important to preserving its residual value.

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